Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New Year's pledge: engaging readers

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During the past week, our newspaper has been engaging in what a lot of what our readers have been doing at this time of year.

Maybe it's the holidays. Perhaps it's the rum-spiked egg nog. But the end of the year is a time when we tend to pause and reflect. And when the Free Press pauses and reflects, we tend to come up with lists, lots and lots of lists, that then get assigned to reporters.

We've had our news stories of the year. Our sports department has its stories of the year. Photographers have their favourite pictures of the year. Marion Warhaft has her best new restaurants of the year. Brad Oswald has his top TV moments. Toss in our picks for movies of the year, books of the year and local entertainer of the year, and you've had a lot of 2012 reflections to digest in your Free Press over egg nog.

Newspapers, much like readers, also make resolutions for the coming year -- and one of ours involves you.

Arthur Miller once said: "A good newspaper is a nation talking to itself.'' What I want the Free Press to do in 2013 is to build upon the conversation we've been a part of for 140 years by leveraging the digital technology at our disposal to broaden and deepen the dialogue. In other words, we want the Free Press to be a newspaper that invites you to be part of our journalism. A newspaper able to use conversations with its readers to generate headlines is one that will have a stronger connection to the community it serves.

Of course, readers have been engaging with the Free Press, long, long before the advent of online comments or Twitter.

Letters to the editor have been a forum for feedback since before the days of John W. Dafoe. There are always the story ideas sprinkled amid the critiques and compliments that come from reader phone calls and emails. Some, such as this one from Ginette Perrin who had not only high praise but a confession about being unable to resist the lure of our website, can brighten my day

"I LOVE my WINNIPEG FREE PRESS,'' she wrote to me in the fall. "It is so many things to me -- readable, engaging, community-based, in touch with the pulse of the city and province. I'm just an average reader, but I read every page, every day (even though I've cheated by reading the web page a few times in the day)."

But the ones that come from readers less enamoured with our journalism -- and on occasion even filled with profanity -- are just as important for us to hear.

During the past 20 months, the Free Press's efforts at opening our doors and welcoming readers in has been generating random acts of journalism daily at our News Café in the heart of the Exchange District. When we reflect on all we have served up at the News Café in 2012, the menu included everything from a federal finance minister showing his sense of humour to overflow crowds for a housing forum to live performances from bands such as Whitehorse that took to our stage Friday.

What the News Café gives us -- and by extension gives you -- is a chance for our relationship with the reader to be one that moves from passive to participation. For instance, take a look at the video on our website when we livestreamed Olympic soccer star Desiree Scott's stop at our News Café. What you'll see is an interview that clearly wasn't your standard newspaper Q&A between reporter and subject. This was a chance for our audience to be part of the conversation and the content we generated. This was an opportunity for a soccer mom to take her young daughter downtown to meet her hometown hero, to see her bronze medal, to step up to the microphone and to ask the question and hear the answer directly from Scott.

default video player to use on WFP

 

Starting in January, there will be more opportunities for you to join with us in the conversation that is part of what we do daily. What we want to build is a new relationship with our readers, one in which you not only help shape our strategy, but also help us deliver the news. Stay tuned for more details.

If all goes well with this resolution, I hope it will be readers like you who will generate the lists for our reporters on the top stories of 2013 -- stories you will have helped us deliver.

 

paul.samyn@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @paulsamyn

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 29, 2012 A3

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Updated on Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 10:23 AM CST: adds links and video embed

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